Diez de Abril, a Zapatista community situated on occupied lands three hours from San Cristobal, takes its name from the anniversary of the death and betrayal of Mexican Revolution hero Emiliano Zapata. This year, the young community, to mark the occassion held a day of festivities, music, sport and drama. This letter is from a member of the Irish Mexico Group who was there continuing the direct solidarity project with this front line community.
All morning visitors and friends flooded into the village, smiles and handshakes, everybody wearing their Sunday best, the kids scrubbed clean, music filling the valley. Two cows, part of the booty of expropriation that came with the farm, were hauled off unceremonially to be butchered, huge vats of atole were prepared and every where basketball teams warmed up for the big competition.
"Lets go to the beach!" says 17-year-old companero Palestino, in English, the fruits of hanging out with too many gringos, while his younger brother Damo shouts "Chucky!", his Irish lessons stalled at one word. Israel wants to see the basketball shirts given by the IMG as prize for todays competition. "Ta'mal!" he exclaims, loosly translated as "fuckin'great", holding the green singlet with Diez De Abril blazed across the chest, with Solidaridad Irlanda-Mexico below. Off they go to prep up their team called Nace A Pedir, Born To Lose, (tragically Palestino and his motley crew of teenage hoodlums do just that).
By mid afternoon, the basketball competition is in full swing. Several hundred people crowd around watching quietly as the numerous mens and womens teams battle it out. Everybody, man woman and child has a Zapatista paliacate (bandana) tied somewhere, teenage girls transforming the humble piece of cloth into an essential fashion accessory. Soon food is served, a banquet of hardcore meat and tortillas, music blasts from makeshift speakers, the babble of festive voices and mangy dogs going loopey with excitement.
The Pinata brings hilarious chaos. A traditional party game involving the beating of a sweet-filled vessel with a big stick by blindfolded children, the finale is a free-for-all brawl amongst mobs of little girls and boys scrambling for the dispersed sweeties.
Nightfalls and the whole community gather around the basketball court now transformed into an open-air theatre. And so begins the nights activities- performances, speeches, bards, poets, dancers, singers, games under a vast warm starry night. Dim lights flickered and the people watched from the shadows, demurely applauding and laughing. A group of girls sang a beautiful song about the women not been excluded anymore, Marcelino sang his compositions slagging the goverment, and the ancianos, the respected elders, performed a mystical dance. Deep into the night the festivities continued, enchanting and inspired, a small rebel community celebrating life despite the everpresent threat of military assault from the nearby Mexican Army Encampments.
Finally it was time for the presentations and speeches. The prizes were given to the winning teams and the Irish mexico Group representitve was given the mic to read words of solidarity from faraway.
".....In Ireland, in January of 1994, news arrived of the Zapatista rebellion. We Irish, have a long history of resistence against bad government. It was easy for us to understand the causes of this conflict, the injustice,the lack of democracy and the demand for land and liberty. And because of this, we are here in the name of all the Irish people who sympathize with your struggle...."
Children had fallen asleep in their parents arms, the dancers had finally relented and it was almost dawn. Tomorrow would bring a return to the hard old routine of work and organising for those who still have nothing but themselves, their dreams and the spirit of Zapata to accompany them in their long struggle for a better world.